Columbo did something a little different. They would first show the entire crime in full with absolutely all the context you would need to understand it. The titular Lieutenant Columbo often would not even show up until nearly half an hour into the show. We would them spend the rest of the feature length episode watching to see if he would be able to prove what we already know.
Columbo's flamboyancy came from the fact that he played the part of a doddering old gentleman who often seemed like he was not really made out to do this sort of work. It was a clever act he put on that was so convincing that it often fooled the audience itself. He did this so that the criminal would be lured into a false sense of security by, among other things, actually becoming surprisingly endearing to them. I'll get back to that in a bit.
But let's talk about the criminals of Columbo, for they are something I find perhaps the most fascinating of the entire show. As far as I know, they are all murderers, but there is something special about these particular individuals. There are three things that you must absolutely comprehend about the roster of villains in this series, and those three things are as follows:
1. They are supreme geniuses.
2. They are out right sociopaths.
3. The only man in the universe that can best them is Columbo. Period.
Number three is particularly interesting simply because, at the outset, it seems so unlikely. How can someone so big be bested by someone who seems so imperceptibly small. But therein lies some spiritual truths that must be understood.
The villains of Columbo have always come across to me as realistic demons. Not one of them ever seems like they are all that bothered by the murder they commit. They are usually calm and collected throughout. They have an uncanny understanding of the system they live in. They know how to play the game and convince others easily of their innocence. If something goes wrong, they adapt remarkably well. Anything and everything that could happen, they will be prepared for and they will get away with murder... if it were not for only one man.
Columbo is the unsuspecting demon hunter of the series. He would be a good example of what the real thing would be like. He slinks into their presence garnering only a little suspicion, and before they know it, they realize that they have been infiltrated. Yes, the demons are intelligent enough to know what Columbo is early on, but they have not quite realize the existent of his powers. And why would they? These creatures have never met anybody like him.
The fact that they have not met anything like Columbo before actually sparks their curiosity. They begin to want him closer for a while, if only to understand his strangeness. But this is always their mistake. Soon he has infiltrated their minds so heavily that they will soon want only to get rid of him, but by then it is too late. Columbo has learned the truth, and he will not stop until he has them dead to rights.
Because of my perceived spiritual perspective on this show, I have always considered Columbo to be the absolute king of the detective genre. There is not one episode that I did not find gloriously entertaining and powerful to watch. I'm not saying it is the only good detective show. Murder She Wrote is very good, and so is Monk. But I will never be able to shake the near flawless formula of Columbo. It reached a spiritual height that I may never see again in my lifetime. Bravo.
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